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Which Foods Are High in Indoles?

author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
Which Foods Are High in Indoles?
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With the rates of preventable diseases increasing each year, you may be seeking a way to increase the amount of disease-fighting nutrients in your diet. Preliminary research suggests that compounds in food called phytochemicals may decrease your risk of developing diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and cancer, according to Stanford Medicine. Indoles are a class of phytochemicals associated with cancer prevention. You should consult your physician before altering your diet to increase your indole intake.

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Research evaluating the role of diet in disease development is ongoing. Scientists are continually discovering how your diet can prevent or lead to disease states. Studies suggest that the phytochemical indole-3-carbinol has anticancer benefits. Cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow in an uncontrolled manner. Normally, cells go through a process of programmed cell death, known as apoptosis. Cancer cells grow and spread because they are able to avoid apoptosis.


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fresh cabbage Photo Credit: matthewennisphotography/iStock/Getty Images

Mounting dietary studies suggest an association between consuming a high dietary intake of cruciferous vegetables and decreased cancer risk. Indoles are shown to exert anti-carcinogen activity. According a study published in the December, 2004 issue of "The Journal of Nutrition," Indole-3-carbinol inhibits prostate cancer cells. The study concluded that in addition to other laboratory studies, there is ample evidence that indole-3-carbinol can help to prevent and treat prostate cancer. According to the "IARC Handbooks of Disease Prevention," other studies have found similar results with breast cancer and colon cancer also.

Rich Sources

bok choy on counter
bok choy on counter Photo Credit: olgakr/iStock/Getty Images

Research suggests that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and cereal grains may help to reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases. Cruciferous vegetables provide a rich indole source. These include Brussels sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage and turnips. You should consult your health-care provider before increasing your cruciferous vegetable intake if you have a thyroid disorder. Cruciferous vegetables are known as goitrogens, which are foods that can suppress thyroid function.

Other Phytochemicals

fresh carrots
fresh carrots Photo Credit: Norasit Kaewsai/iStock/Getty Images

If you are looking to increase the amount of phytochemicals in your diet, there are others that you should know about. Allicin, a phytochemical with antimicrobial properties, is found in garlic and onions. Carotenoids function as antioxidants, which protect your cells. You can get them from spinach, oranges, bell peppers, carrots and tomatoes. Lutein can help to reduce your risk of breast cancer and heart disease. Green leafy vegetables are a rich source. Lycopene may reduce the risk of heart attacks and cancer. It if found primarily in tomatoes.

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